Technology

Lawmakers target ZTE, Huawei in defense bill

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A bipartisan group of senators is trying to use the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to target Chinese technology companies.

On Thursday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would restore the Commerce Department’s penalties on ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea.

{mosads}The Commerce Department announced earlier Thursday that it had reached a deal to lift penalties on ZTE following pressure from President Trump. Lawmakers who supported the sanctions said they’re frustrated with the decision to ease up on penalties against ZTE. 

The amendment would also ban government agencies from buying or leasing telecommunications equipment and services from Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE and ban the government from providing loans to or subsidizing either company.

“Both parties in Congress must come together to bring the hammer down on these companies rather than offer them a second chance, and this new bipartisan amendment will do just that,” Schumer said.

He and other lawmakers say that they are concerned about the potential national security concerns that companies like ZTE and Huawei pose. Both companies are cozy with the Chinese government, and politicians fear that they could be pressured into providing the government a backdoor into Americans’ communications on their devices.

The senators’ amendment follows similar efforts in the House to crack down on Chinese tech giants with their version of the NDAA.

In May, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) introduced amendments to the NDAA that aimed to block products from both Chinese tech firms from the U.S.

The legislative proposals come amid a larger movement by lawmakers and government officials to keep Chinese technology companies out of the U.S. In January, members of Congress pressured AT&T into scrapping a deal with Huawei to sell its phones.

In May, the Pentagon banned ZTE and Huawei products from being sold on military bases, all on the grounds of national security concerns.

Updated at 3:51 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer Chris Van Hollen Donald Trump Duncan Hunter Mike Gallagher Ruben Gallego Tom Cotton

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